Trump prods Russian Federation to rein in Assad, Iran

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Minsk/Beirut: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that de-escalation zones proposed by his ally Russian Federation were a chance for rebels to "reconcile" with Damascus and drive out Islamist militants, but vowed to fight on calling UN-led peace talks fruitless.

President Trump described the meeting with Lavrov as "very, very good".

FM Lavrov will become the highest-ranking Kremlin official to visit Washington during Trump's tenure.

Asked by a reporter if the firing would cast a shadow over his talks, Lavrov replied in a sarcastic tone: "Was he fired? You're kidding, you're kidding!"

"The president further emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russian Federation", the readout concluded.

Neither Washington, which backs the opposition, nor Moscow, a longtime ally of the Syrian regime, have managed to find a solution to the conflict.

Last week, Iran, Russia and Turkey agreed on a proposal to establish de-escalation zones in Syria, following diplomatic talks in the Kazakh city of Astana.

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The primary goal of de-escalation is supposed to be to allow humanitarian aid to flow through to civilians.

Washington gave the deal a skeptical welcome, rejecting Tehran's proposed role as a guarantor even as it expressed hope the agreement could set the stage for a later settlement. Trump said during his election campaign that he sought closer ties with Russian Federation but tensions grew after USA air strikes against a Syrian airfield in April in response to a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Assad.

Both countries have recently indicated that relations under Trump have never been so bad.

According to Russian defense official, the fact that the de-escalation agreement was supported by the United Nations, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia guaranteed its implementation.

Trump "also raised the possibility of broader cooperation on resolving conflicts in the Middle East", the White House said.

The State Department added: "Sanctions on Russian Federation will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them".

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